With the rise of digital ad channels like connected TV and retail media, there’s a lot of emphasis on making every ad and consumer touchpoint shoppable. Ad formats with direct calls to action help drive conversions and increase ROI. But brand equity can get left out of the conversation when we focus on performance marketing in isolation. Every ad should perform and provide some sort of measurable impact, but each ad is also vital for telling a brand’s story, even at the bottom of the funnel where marketers are more focused on driving conversions.
Here are three areas where brand marketing is sometimes forgotten, and how advertisers should rethink their approach.
Retail media is valued for its proximity to purchase, offering ads to people who are already potential buyers. But retail media is already moving up the funnel, into what our analyst Andrew Lipsman calls retail media’s 2.0 era.
“As RMNs [retail media networks] get serious about using first-party data for targeting display, video, and streaming TV ads—often by partnering with third-party publishers and media companies—brand dollars are migrating into these formats. That means retail media will become as much about branding as it is about performance advertising,” Lipsman wrote.
Brands are already thinking about retail media as a brand marketing tool.
Case study: 7-Eleven’s Gulp Media RMN is specifically aimed at upper-funnel marketing. “Our focus is connecting our database to third-party platforms and in-store for top-of-funnel and mid-funnel marketing,” said Mario Mijares, vice president of insights, loyalty, marketing, and monetization platforms at 7-Eleven, during Advertising Week New York 2023.
How people search for a brand is how they view that brand. A focus on SEO as a performance marketing metric is important, but it can take away from the importance of search in brand marketing.
Chat- and image-based search is also informing a brand’s identity in search results.
Case study: Reynolds pointed to an example early in his career, where Mercedes-Benz USA asked him to go after the phrase “pre-owned luxury car.” Reynolds suggested they go after the word “used” instead, which was typed in way more often. But for the car company, it was vital to the brand’s luxury status that people not associate Mercedes-Benz with used cars.
“The VP [was] like, I am going to change the way people search in the future, but I’m never going to use the word ‘used’ on my website, ever. I will sponsor golf tournaments to get people to think of our cars as pre-owned,” said Reynolds.
Turning existing customers into returning customers is past the bottom of the traditional marketing funnel. But to build a strong brand, customers must feel comfortable returning to and identifying with that brand.
Case study: Earlier this month, a viral TikTok showed a Stanley cup that had not only survived a car fire, but still had ice in it. Stanley’s response was to use the car fire as a customer success story, capitalizing on the TikTok buzz by offering not only to send the TikToker new Stanleys, but also to replace her charred car.
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